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Opinion
Matt Levine

Sometimes Companies Meet With Their Owners

But not all the shareholders. That's not nice if others feel left out.

An important idea in modern corporate capitalism is that the shareholders are the owners of the corporation. If you believe this -- and most people mostly do, though you shouldn't take it too literally -- then you presumably also think that the managers work for the owners, that is, for the shareholders. The least the managers can do, then, is to meet with the shareholders sometimes, keep them posted on how things are going and listen to the shareholders' feedback. The shareholders, after all, are the bosses.

And so that happens: Lots of managers spend lots of time meeting with shareholders individually or in small groups, telling them how things are going and listening to what the shareholders have to say. Sometimes managers even go to Carl Icahn's apartment for dinner and a chat about buybacks. Here is an excellent Wall Street Journal article about the practice, which seems very sensible and straightforward if you think about it as corporate executives meeting with their bosses, but which is somewhat more worrying if you think about it as managers talking secretly with favored shareholders. These meetings, which tend to occur between managers and the bigger shareholders, are "a booming back channel through which facts and body language flow from public companies to handpicked recipients." If you are not a handpicked recipient, you might feel aggrieved.